Following their famous sit-down at the White House days after the 2016 presidential election, President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump made some statements. They were blandly positive. “I’ve been very encouraged in the interest in President-elect Trump’s wanting to work with my team on many of the issues our great country faces,” Obama said.
Perhaps. Thing was, it was difficult to make out his exact words with all the cameras clicking around him. Clearly Washington’s top political photographers didn’t want to miss a single grimace, a single killer look. “Listen to DSLR Shutters Drowning Out Trump’s Meeting with Obama,” read the headline on a tech site, referring to Digital Single-Lens Reflex technology.
“We talked about click click click click click click…,” griped one commenter below a YouTube video of the meeting. And: “Can they have quieter cameras!?”
As a matter of fact, yes. In a fascinating discussion with C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb, Doug Mills, a longtime White House photographer for the New York Times, spoke about his own conversion from a noisy to a silent camera. “I can take your picture right now and you can’t hear it. You can’t hear even a whisper of a noise,” said Mills to Lamb. For more than 35 years, he said, he had used Canon cameras, a brand that, along with Nikon, has dominated Beltway political photography for decades. Sony approached him about using its A9 camera, a mirrorless camera that makes no shutter noise. “Sony came to me and asked if I’d be willing to try it. I remember saying to one of the technicians, ‘This is a game-changer,’” he said.